Monthly Archives: May 2012

My PhD…in Brief

I’ve got my upgrade from MPhil to PhD coming up, so I need to reduce my proposal for 3 years writing, planning and data collection into less than 250 words…here goes!

Metacognition and Insight in Psychosis and Dementia

“Patients’ awareness of their psychiatric illness is a multi-dimensional construct that can have implications for treatment and recovery in patients. Recent research has suggested that insight could be related to or mediated by metacognition, the cognitive process and ability to ‘thinking about thinking’. Studies have shown that metacognitive ability is related to grey matter volume and white matter connections in the prefrontal cortex; grey matter volume in this area is also related to awareness of illness in psychosis and Alzheimer ’s disease. Mood has also been implicated as a mediator of awareness in both conditions, where lower mood is related to improved awareness. This study proposes to investigate the possibility of related neural networks in awareness of illness and metacognitive abilities in these two patient groups.

The relationship between behavioural measures of metacognition, using confidence judgements, will be compared to self-report assessments of Cognitive Insight and Mood in controls, with a sub-study investigating the effect of temporary induced positive or negative mood. The same measures will be completed by both sets of patients. Later investigations will involve the use of imaging techniques to investigate structural and functional differences between the patient and control groups. “


Learning by colours…

Its my birthday today, hurrah(!) and I received possibly the best present ever…a Human Brain Colouring Book.

Now we all know we learn best when we’re having fun…and what better way to learn about neuroanatomy than by regressing to Junior School age and colouring in a frontal lobe or a cerebellum? Its also a legitimate form of procrastination…win win!

Available on Amazon now for the tasty price of £6.99.


New Science Journalism Project

The new science journalism project is a fantastic on-line writing project, designed to encourage the new generation of science writers to get posting.

I really enjoy writing about science so I saw this as a perfect opportunity to brush away the cobwebs in the slightly more creative part of my brain and get writing…results to follow.

Accounts are free, and in less that 5 minutes you can be signed up and posting articles for the whole internet to read. I encourage any other budding science journalists to sign up at

‘Why does my research matter?’

OOF! What a question to ask a researcher! But alas, this is the question being asked to all entrants of the MRC Max Perutz Science Writing Award 2012. In previous years its just been ‘Write about your research for the lay-person’, but those were simpler times. Most researchers can wax lyrical for hours about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it…but can we defend WHY we’re doing it?

Max Perutz Science Writing award

Many non-scientists think that a lot of research is merely ‘science for the sake of science’ (believe me I’ve had many an argument with my business-oriented family about this), but what people don’t understand is that to make something matter, the basics need to be researched first. You need a foundation to a theory before you can apply the findings to a new treatment or new technology. This is definitely the case in Psychiatry research; how can you develop treatments for any one of the many psychiatric disorders out there without first understanding mechanisms behind the disorder?

Often a hunch about what’s happening inside someone’s head is completely wrong, but you need to know what’s right before developing the treatment…and this can sometimes take years!

My research is in its infancy, it will take all 3 years of my PhD (if not more) to work out if our hunch is correct, and then probably a few years in a Post-Doc position to confirm and further investigate my claims. Maybe then I’ll find a Psychiatrist or CBT professional who wants to work on a treatment with me. So IF my hunch is correct, it could be 10 years or more before patients are benefiting from my research. Bummer.

But I believe it matters, and hopefully something will come from it that can add to our knowledge about psychiatric disorders in the future….